What's it like to live in a far-off place most of us see only on a vacation? Foreign Correspondence is an interview with someone who lives in a spot you may want to visit.
Suzanne Nam, 38, moved to Bangkok, Thailand, about six years ago to be a reporter for an English-language newspaper. The Cambridge, Mass., native still lives there, and is the author of "Moon Bangkok" ($17.99) and "Moon Thailand" ($21.99), published by Avalon Travel.
Q. Bangkok is huge and cosmopolitan. Is it hard to get around?
A. It's very big and kind of sprawling — without physical boundaries except for a river. Cities like this just keep growing. As a visitor/traveler, you can feel very overwhelmed. In Manhattan, you can walk from the Lower to the Upper West Side in a couple hours. That's harder in Bangkok because it's so massive.
There are probably hundreds of small neighborhoods that are special, and there are enclaves — small, ethnic neighborhoods. The population of Bangkok is primarily Thai and ethnic Chinese but a few blocks from where I live, for instance, is an African enclave, and next to that is one for Arabian Gulf people. Elsewhere you find enclaves of Indian.
After you live in New York for a bit, you can break that city into digestible chunks. You can't do that in Bangkok.
Q. Bangkok has a reputation as a shopping destination. Is that accurate?
A. There is plenty of high end shopping, though most of that is European designers, so no need to indulge in that here in Bangkok
It's the middle- and low-end shopping that's cool. There are tons of "lunch markets" — ad hoc places that spring up to cater to office workers on lunch breaks. You'll find suits, baby clothes, leather jackets and more. And food.
At mid-range? There's quite a bit of manufacturing that goes on here, and shoppers take advantage of that.
There's cool-design stuff — funky and cutting-edge — in shops that are very inexpensive. You can indulge in high fashion, sort of, without spending a ton of money, assuming you don't weigh more than 140 pounds.
Q. Can you point us to the primo shopping?
A. I'd go to a place called the Platinum Fashion Mall. It looks small on the outside, but is a massive indoor market with probably 1,000 stalls. You can buy everything; it's also comfortable, neat and air-conditioned. You'll find dozens of people selling things like women's shoes for a couple bucks.
It's around the corner from the biggest mall in Bangkok, CentralWorld. You can go there for high-end to mid-level purchases. If this is your thing, you could spend the whole day there.
Q. What's your favorite place in Bangkok for Thai food?
A. Personally, it's a street vendor around the corner who sells fried chicken. I see her almost every morning while walking the dog. Her food is delicious.
There are a couple great places I like for sit-down. Ad Makers has great, reliable Thai food. It's comfortable and air-conditioned. Another place I love that's kind of the standard for fried chicken is Jay Kee. The food is fresh and fast. It has great salads, chicken and sticky rice. It's nothing fancy but is fantastic.
Q. Your husband is also American. Did you guys experience much culture shock moving to Bangkok?
A. It's one of those things that was hard the first year or two. People are different all over the world, and different cultures have different ways of doing things; there's no "right" way or "wrong" way.
The hardest thing to deal with may be the non-confrontation attitude people have here. If there's a problem, it's often not made clear. They get uncomfortable in those situations. In New York, yelling can get you better service. Here, it's the opposite.
Q. And the No. 1 site to see?
A. The Grand Palace, hands down. It was the royal palace, and not just one structure: It was a small city when it was used. Inside is a temple that has one of the most important Buddha figures in Thailand. At the palace you have the chance to see Thailand's royalty aspect, but what's fascinating is the aesthetically stunning Buddha.
If you need to pack all your sightseeing into one afternoon, go there.
Know someone who lives in an interesting city or country who would like to give us the inside line on visiting there? Email, in English, firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times